Facial affect processing deficits in schizophrenia: A meta-analysis of antipsychotic treatment effects

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Social cognition, including emotion processing, is a recognised deficit observed in patients with schizophrenia. It is one cognitive domain which has been emphasised as requiring further investigation, with the efficacy of antipsychotic treatment on this deficit remaining unclear. Nine studies met our criteria for entry into a meta-analysis of the effects of medication on facial affect processing, including data from 1162 patients and six antipsychotics. Overall we found a small, positive effect (Hedge's g = 0.13, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.21, p = 0.002). In a subgroup analysis this was statistically significant for atypical, but not typical, antipsychotics. It should be noted that the pooled sample size of the typical subgroup was significantly lower than the atypical. Meta-regression analyses revealed that age, gender and changes in symptom severity were not moderating factors. For the small, positive effect on facial affect processing, the clinical significance is questionable in terms of treating deficits in emotion identification in schizophrenia. We show that antipsychotic medications are poor at improving facial affect processing compared to reducing symptoms. This highlights the need for further investigation into the neuropharmacological mechanisms associated with accurate emotion processing, to inform treatment options for these deficits in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England)
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2014


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